Nearly three years ago, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) rolled out a new jobs program with an ambitious goal: In a city suffering from 11 percent unemployment, he pledged to match 10,000 jobless District residents with employers in a year’s time.
In the end, it took three years, but on Wednesday, Gray finally proclaimed that his “One City, One Hire” program had finally reached its five-figure goal. The program has been a fixture of Gray news events, as the tally has steadily if slowly grown since the September 2011 rollout.
Gray on Wednesday touted other signs of progress, including an unemployment rate that now sits closer to 7 percent than 11 percent. One City, One Hire success stories took the podium, crediting God and Vince Gray with getting them back on their feet and back in the workforce.
Donnice Tyler, who graduated from a Goodwill hospitality training program and now works at the new Cambria Suites hotel in Shaw, reveled in the financial independence her new job affords her. “I don’t have to have anyone tell me to get out my home,” Tyler said. “I pay rent. Nah, I pay market rent.”
But there was another figure that put those 10,162 success stories into perspective: The roughly 11,000 jobless residents who lined up inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Wednesday to enter the city hiring fair where Gray made his remarks. Dozens of them, in fact, sat and listened as Gray and other officials talked about their workforce development successes. “We have ended the day where we train people for jobs that don’t exist,” he said.
One City, One Hire has encountered plenty of skepticism over the past three years, including some who consider it mostly a rebranding of existing programs and others who question the lack of tracking of outcomes for those who are matched with jobs. Thomas Luparello, the city’s interim director of employment services, said tracking outcomes is easier said than done, that a reliable and useful tracking program would be so expensive as to cut deeply into funding for training and placement programs. “We don’t have any reason to think the retention rate for One City, One Hire is any lower than the retention rate across the board,” Luparello said.
Gray called on his successor, whoever that might be, to continue One City, One Hire — even if it no longer bears Gray’s “One City” tagline: “It’s a program that has worked,” he said. “They can call it whatever they want to call it, I don’t care.”